Connor Wood

Former Longhorn Connor Brewer relays information to starting quarterback David Ash at the December 2012 Alamo Bowl against Oregon State. Brewer is the most recent athlete to transfer unconditionally from Texas. Football transfers have made headlines due to ambigious restrictions placed on student athletes.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Earlier this month, redshirt freshman Connor Brewer announced that he would seek a transfer from the Longhorn football program after only one season at Texas. Brewer is following in the steps of former Texas quarterbacks Connor Wood and Garrett Gilbert, both of whom transferred to other programs with eligibility remaining. 

“I want to thank everyone at The University of Texas — the coaching staff, the fans and especially my teammates for a great experience here in Austin over the last 18 months,” Brewer said. “I do, however, feel that it is in my best interest as a football player to pursue other options to continue my college career.” 

The Texas football program has had its fair share of transfers, but recently with increasing restrictions by high-profile universities across the country, the rules regarding transfers have been thrust into the spotlight. While Texas has an open policy for its transferring athletes, imposing no additional restrictions beyond the minimum by the NCAA and Big 12, such is not the case for many other football programs. 

In May, Oklahoma State sophomore Wes Lunt elected to transfer but was stuck with stringent stipulations on where he could play next, which brought scrutiny to what restrictions head coaches could place on transferring athletes in addition to the restrictions placed by the NCAA and Big 12. 

According to the NCAA, students are allowed to transfer to any school of their choice but must be released by their current institution from any scholarships. For football and both men’s and women’s basketball, an athlete must sit out for one year before being allowed to compete at a new institution. In the Big 12, an athlete can choose to attend another conference school, but he would lose an additional year of eligibility for those same sports. 

There is no rule, however, against the initial institution placing limitations on which universities are eligible for an athlete to transfer to as part of the student’s initial letter of intent, with the team generally blocking in-conference opponents and schools that will show up on the schedule during the player’s career. 

Lunt’s case made national headlines after Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy significantly limited Lunt’s transfer options. Gundy barred Lunt from transferring to schools in the SEC and Pac-12 conference, Southern Mississippi, where former Cowboy offensive coordinator Todd Monken was named head coach, as well as all in-conference teams and teams that Oklahoma State has currently scheduled, a staggering 37 in all. 

If a player wants to leave for another school but is not granted a release from his letter of intent contract with the original university, the athlete forfeits the opportunity to play for scholarship money while still sitting out the next season. However, as in the case of Gilbert, if a student graduates from his original university, he is not bound by transfer restrictions if he is seeking a new degree. 

In another case this past April, Pittsburgh placed restrictions on running back Rushel Shell who wants to transfer to Arizona State, a team that is in a different conference and is not on Pittsburgh’s future football schedule. Arizona State’s head coach is Todd Graham, a former coach at Pittsburgh.

Texas has had a record of issuing unconditional releases to athletes who elect to transfer, under whatever circumstances, for other opportunities. Texas head coach Mack Brown has even said he is willing to aid transferring athletes in their search for a new program. Even after former Big 12 rival Texas A&M left the conference, Texas did not place restrictions in regards to the Aggies. 

“If a guy comes in and talks to us about, whether it’s being unhappy, needing more playing time, wanting to get closer to home, whatever, it really doesn’t matter,” Brown said. 

Brewer is the third Texas quarterback in three years to choose, and be awarded, an unconditional release from his scholarship in search of new opportunities. It has been suggested that Brewer’s decision to transfer stems from his position on the depth chart. Over the year, Brewer has fallen behind junior starter David Ash, senior backup Case McCoy and true freshman standout Tyrone Swoopes on projected depth charts for the upcoming football season.

“I mean, if they’re not happy here, we want to help them, and we’ve never had a conditional release for anybody,” Brown said. “If we release them, we try to help them. So we’ll call the places they want to go.”

Brewer has not named what school he will be transferring to, but indicated that Alabama, Notre Dame, Stanford, UCLA, Louisville, Tennessee and Arizona have expressed interest. 

“Coach Brown was great,” Brewer told ESPN. “He understood the situation and basically said, ‘You’re free to go where you want.’” 

Wood, who was a redshirt freshman when he elected to transfer to the University of Colorado, was tied for third on the depth chart with Ash behind Gilbert and McCoy in 2011. Similarly, Gilbert was allowed an unconditional release to attend SMU after starting the 2012 season and suffering a season-ending shoulder surgery. 

The rules that govern student-athletes are ambiguous and a student cannot do much to change an institution’s ruling on transfer, Austin sports lawyer Pete Reid said. After a student asks for permission to contact other schools, the school has seven days to respond. After that, the student can request a hearing to appeal that must be held within 14 days, but the rules don’t provide for more specific parts of the process.

“The rules allow for the schools to do whatever they want,” Reid said. “It doesn’t say what grounds the school has to have to deny the student, doesn’t even say specific parts of the hearing. There are no standards.” 

The ambiguity of the rules makes it more difficult for student-athletes to do anything to fight against a university if they want to transfer. 

“It’s just not practical for a student to bring a lawsuit against a school,” Reid said. “No one wants to cause trouble against the school. No one wants to be the one who leaves because the coach doesn’t like them and students respect what the schools tell them.” 

As for Texas’ history of unconditional releases, Reid said he thinks it is a good thing. 

“Usually there’s a reason that a student needs to transfer,” Reid said. “I think what Texas does is a very good thing, even when offering to help the students.” 

Many opponents of the current transfer situation claim that the universities and NCAA are treating student-athletes less like the students and teenagers that they are and more like their professional counterparts. A student who seeks a transfer after more than one year at his original institution is putting his playing career in jeopardy thanks to heightened transfer restrictions. 

Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops told ESPN that he supported Gundy’s decision to restrict Lunt’s transfer options, stating that he doesn’t believe it is right for a student to be able to do whatever he wants after already committing to play for a university. Other proponents of transfer restrictions say it is needed to help teach athletes to stay the course, mature and work harder to get better. There is also worry that a transferring player could take school playbooks to a rival university. 

According to the NCAA website, in 2012 NCAA President Mark Emmert convened a task force to work on transfer rules with university presidents and NCAA members, reviewing every rule to establish a way of enforcement. New bylaws were expected to be presented to the Division 1 Board of Directors in late 2012 or early 2013, but have not been announced.

Quarterback situation too much of a good thing

Garrett Gilbert has two seasons left as Texas’ starting quarterback, but then what?
Garrett Gilbert has two seasons left as Texas’ starting quarterback, but then what?

Schools like Texas deserve the best recruits in the nation, and the Longhorns like to take as many as they can get.

Three talented receivers? Sure. Five huge offensive linemen? Can’t ever have too many of those. A couple of linebackers? Why not.

Taking multiple prospects at the same positions works out fine, because they can all play at the same time. Offenses sometimes run empty sets with five wideouts, four defensive backs need to be on the field, defensive tackles rotate around all the time and most teams like to have a fresh running back in relief.

But there just don’t need to be this many quarterbacks.

Taking two of ‘em in 2010 was one thing. Taking David Ash last year was another, as is bringing in Connor Brewer in 2012. By the time Garrett Gilbert is a senior, there will be five quarterbacks on scholarship (assuming none of them transfer ... and in that case there will be four.) 

There’s bound to be a quarterback controversy brewing soon, and it might be a bad one. Gilbert might lose all confidence in himself as fans clamor for somebody else. Connor Wood’s talent might get thrown out with the garbage — or taken to Tulsa. The coaches might piss off Colt McCoy if they don’t give his youngest brother Case any looks. David Ash is in danger of being swept under the rug if the more extroverted Brewer arrives on campus next summer and becomes the most popular man on the team.

And that’s not quite it — Wood, McCoy, Ash and Brewer might all be playing second fiddle to Whitewright High School quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, who is widely considered the best 2013 player in the state and looks like the second coming of Vince Young.

Yes, it is sensible for the coaching staff to plan ahead in case of injury, attrition or disappointment, and load the quarterback cupboard accordingly. But this is too much. Waaaayyy too much. Good quarterbacks need at least two years as the starter to develop to their fullest potential — unless you’re Cam Newton — and that won’t ever happen here.

Let’s say it plays out like this:

2011: Gilbert starts (Jr.), Wood transfers and Ash redshirts
2012: Gilbert starts (Sr.), Brewer redshirts
2013: McCoy starts (Sr.)
2014: Ash (Jr.) or Brewer (So.) enters the year as the starter

That doesn’t look good. McCoy gets just one year to show what he can do, Texas loses Wood and then Ash and Brewer (assuming they redshirt — if they don’t, this is even more complicated) are stuck behind each other for two years. Where does that leave the door for somebody like Swoopes or anybody else to come in? Who wants to sit for three seasons?

The two most successful Texas quarterbacks since James Street were Vince Young and Colt McCoy. They both redshirted their first year, and then started or received significant playing time in their redshirt-freshman season (Colt started, Vince initially shared snaps with Chance Mock). This isn’t any coincidence.

Blue-chip quarterbacks expect to start for more than just a few seasons in college, because they’ve never spent much time on the bench in high school. And most of them are welcome to competition, which is probably what Texas is trying to foster through all of this — natural selection, if you will.

“Those quarterbacks there did not do anything to affect me coming to Texas,” Brewer said earlier this week. “There’s going to be competition everywhere.’

But not quite like this.

It’s almost as though Mack Brown is figuring out ways to ensure his team is quarterbacked by a top arm, while simultaneously ensuring that rival teams don’t get these guys on campus (wait, no, that’s exactly what he’s doing).

That helps Texas, sure. They would much rather have Connor Wood playing for Tulsa than Oklahoma (the Sooners went hard for him) and they would rather have McCoy play at Houston than Texas A&M. Just hope the Longhorns are ready for a messy public relations crisis, as well as a few burnt bridges — especially with the McCoy family.

Making all of this worse is the fact that the Longhorns keep missing out on strong state-bred talent. Andrew Luck tore it up at Houston Stratford. Robert Griffin is from Copperas Cove. Nick Foles played 10 minutes away at Westlake High. All three of them will be professional athletes in a year or so, no doubt about it.

You can’t say that so confidently about any quarterback on Texas’ roster. But surely if the Longhorns keep recruiting even more of them — five or six, perhaps nine — they’re bound to eventually find one they like. 

Read more about Connor Brewer here.

USC running back reinstated
Senior running back Marc Tyler was reinstated to the Trojans’ football program Tuesday after he made comments to the website TMZ implying USC paid its players. Tyler had missed approximately a month of practices and meetings but began working out with the scout team two weeks ago.
“He had a number of things that he had to do between myself ... and he did and completed all those things,” said head coach Lane Kiffin. “Anytime that you can add a guy who’s been there, done it, they usually play better than the [less-experienced] guys.”

Tyler should see action this week against Utah, but freshman D.J. Morgan and junior Curtis McNeal will be in line for the bulk of the carries after the pair combined for more than 100 yards in last week’s opener.

Wood enrolls at Colorado
Former Longhorn Connor Wood has officially enrolled at Colorado after transferring from Texas. Wood will practice with the scout team this fall and must sit out this season because of NCAA regulations. He will be able to play next season and should be in competition with freshmen John Shrock and Stevie Joe Dorman, redshirt freshman Nick Hirschman and junior Brent Burnette. Wood has three years of eligibility left.

“Connor obviously gives us another live arm and will help our defense, continue to help our secondary. I think he’s a big-armed kid and can do some things,” said head coach Jon Embree. “... When your scout team makes it harder than it is in the game, then you’ve arrived as a program. So, he gives us a step in the right direction toward that.”

Four suspended Ohio State players to return this week
Starting running back Jordan Hall, starting cornerback Travis Howard, backup defensive back Corey Brown and backup linebacker Jordan Whiting will all be available for the Buckeyes’ game this week against Toledo. Hall, Howard and Brown were all suspended after Ohio State officials found out that they all received benefits of less than $300 at a charity event earlier this year. Whiting had been suspended for accepting cash and discounted tattoos from a local tattoo-parlor owner. Head coach Luke Fickell said he didn’t know if Hall and Howard would regain their starting jobs.

New starting quarterback announced for Notre Dame
After last week’s debacle against South Florida, head coach Brian Kelly has named Tommy Rees the starter at quarterback ahead of Dayne Crist. Rees will start this week against Michigan. Crist had proved ineffective in the first half against South Florida and was benched in favor of Rees.
Now, the change seems to be more permanent.

“I want to win right now. I believe Tommy gives us the best chance to win against Michigan, Kelly said. “Recruiting is always about building for the future. But your roster has to be evaluated about how to win right now. Especially at
Notre Dame.”

Florida DT must sit out one more game before becoming eligible
Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd must sit out another game and repay $2,700 to a charity before he can regain eligibility. Floyd had been declared ineligible after receiving payments exceeding $2,500 over the span of several months from an individual not associated with the university. Floyd used the money for living costs, transportation and other expenses.
“Sharrif has been extremely forthcoming throughout the process and the NCAA has commented on his honesty and openness,” said Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley.

“Sharrif grew up in an environment where he didn’t have the things most of us take for granted ­— food, shelter and clothing. In the absence of parents, there were kind people, in no way affiliated with the University of Florida, who were not boosters or sports agents, that helped him along the way to provide those things that he would otherwise not have had. This is not an issue about his recruitment to the University of Florida or any other university.”

USC running back reinstated

Senior running back Marc Tyler was reinstated to the Trojans’ football program Tuesday after he made comments to the website TMZ implying USC paid its players. Tyler had missed approximately a month of practices and meetings but began working out with the scout team two weeks ago.
“He had a number of things that he had to do between myself ... and he did and completed all those things,” said head coach Lane Kiffin. “Anytime that you can add a guy who’s been there, done it, they usually play better than the [less-experienced] guys.”

Tyler should see action this week against Utah, but freshman D.J. Morgan and junior Curtis McNeal will be in line for the bulk of the carries after the pair combined for more than 100 yards in last week’s opener.

Wood enrolls at Colorado

Former Longhorn Connor Wood has officially enrolled at Colorado after transferring from Texas. Wood will practice with the scout team this fall and must sit out this season because of NCAA regulations. He will be able to play next season and should be in competition with freshmen John Shrock and Stevie Joe Dorman, redshirt freshman Nick Hirschman and junior Brent Burnette. Wood has three years of eligibility left.

“Connor obviously gives us another live arm and will help our defense, continue to help our secondary. I think he’s a big-armed kid and can do some things,” said head coach Jon Embree. “... When your scout team makes it harder than it is in the game, then you’ve arrived as a program. So, he gives us a step in the right direction toward that.”

Four suspended Ohio State players to return this week

Starting running back Jordan Hall, starting cornerback Travis Howard, backup defensive back Corey Brown and backup linebacker Jordan Whiting will all be available for the Buckeyes’ game this week against Toledo. Hall, Howard and Brown were all suspended after Ohio State officials found out that they all received benefits of less than $300 at a charity event earlier this year. Whiting had been suspended for accepting cash and discounted tattoos from a local tattoo-parlor owner. Head coach Luke Fickell said he didn’t know if Hall and Howard would regain their starting jobs.

New starting quarterback announced for Notre Dame

After last week’s debacle against South Florida, head coach Brian Kelly has named Tommy Rees the starter at quarterback ahead of Dayne Crist. Rees will start this week against Michigan. Crist had proved ineffective in the first half against South Florida and was benched in favor of Rees. Now, the change seems to be
more permanent.

“I want to win right now. I believe Tommy gives us the best chance to win against Michigan, Kelly said. “Recruiting is always about building for the future. But your roster has to be evaluated about how to win right now. Especially at
Notre Dame.”

Florida DT must sit out one more game before eligible

Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd must sit out another game and repay $2,700 to a charity before he can regain eligibility. Floyd had been declared ineligible after receiving payments exceeding $2,500 over the span of several months from an individual not associated with the university. Floyd used the money for living costs, transportation and other expenses.
“Sharrif has been extremely forthcoming throughout the process and the NCAA has commented on his honesty and openness,” said Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley. “Sharrif grew up in an environment where he didn’t have the things most of us take for granted ­— food, shelter and clothing. In the absence of parents, there were kind people, in no way affiliated with the University of Florida, who were not boosters or sports agents, that helped him along the way to provide those things that he would otherwise not have had. This is not an issue about his recruitment to the University of Florida or any other university.”

The Aggies celebrate with fans after beating Nebraska last year. Texas A&M recently announced their intentions to leave the Big 12.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Texas

Redshirt freshman quarterback Connor Wood visited Colorado on Monday and was seen on the LSU campus Tuesday. If Wood were to file all the necessary transfer documents by Saturday, he would not have to sit out this year. Wood is currently third on the depth chart behind Garrett Gilbert and Case McCoy.

Oklahoma State

The Cowboys’ starting safety, senior Johnny Thomas and sophomore wide receiver Michael Harrison, have been ruled ineligible for the team’s season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette for reasons that have yet to be announced. There is no timetable for their return according to head coach Mike Gundy.

Baylor

Demetri Goodson, who spent the last two years playing basketball at Gonzaga, has joined the Baylor football program. Goodson is a native of Spring, and will start to practice as a defensive back. Because Gonzaga does not have a football program, he will be able to play immediately.

Oklahoma

Freshman receiver Trey Metoyer will attend Hargrave Military Academy this fall and will retain a full four years of eligibility with the Sooners. Freshman defensive tackle Jordan Wade will sit out the fall in order to improve his grades. Sophomore linebacker Tony Jefferson will play in the Sooners’ season opener against Tulsa this Saturday, despite reports last week saying he would not.

Iowa State

The Cyclones’ backup safety Earl Brooks will miss this season with a torn left ACL. Brooks played in all 12 games last season and was set to backup starting safety Ter’Ran Benton. Despite breaking his toe earlier this offseason, senior wide receiver Darius Reynolds has been listed as a starter on the depth chart.

Kansas

Sophomore wide receiver Erick McGriff and freshman tight end Jimmay Mundine have been suspended for two games for violating team policy. Sophomore defensive end Tyrone Sellers has also been suspended for one game for the same infraction. The Jayhawks will also be without the services of senior defensive tackle Pat Dorsey, sophomore wide receiver Chris Omigie and freshman linebacker Jake Farley because of injuries.
Possible expansion ahead for Big 12

Now that Texas A&M has officially withdrawn from the Big 12 for what seems like the fifth time, the conference is down to nine teams next season. With conference instability at an all-time high, a five-member expansion committee has been discussing possible teams to add, with BYU and Pittsburgh becoming popular early choices. SMU and Houston have also been mentioned as possible additions.

Receiver Jaxon Shipley makes a run after catching a ball in practice. Shipley is one of the many first-years competing for a starting role.

Photo Credit: UT Athletics | Daily Texan Staff

It has been a while since McCoy and Shipley hooked up for a touchdown on the 40 Acres. But at last Friday’s scrimmage, it happened again.

Case McCoy, Colt’s younger brother, found Jaxon Shipley, Jordan’s younger brother, in the back of the end zone during the Longhorns’ second scrimmage of fall camp a week ago. McCoy is in the middle of Texas’ most high-profile position battle, which features two freshmen — Connor Wood and David Ash. Every team has their fair share of underclassmen but Texas has freshmen, including Shipley, competing for playing time at virtually every position.

“[Shipley]’s quick,” said sophomore defensive back Adrian Phillips. “When they have him in, he’s hard to guard. He gives us the snake eyes when he looks at you so you’ve got to make sure your technique is really good.”

Shipley is one of a few freshman receivers, along with Miles Onyegbule and John Harris who could play this season, with Shipley possibly snagging a starting spot. Whoever wins the quarterback job, however, could use a big target to throw at like Onyegbule, who is listed at 6-foot-4.

“Miles is a big receiver,” Phillips said. “He’s physical. He’s not afraid to block at all. When the ball touches his hands, most of the time it’s going
to stick.”

The ones who throw to receivers like Onyegbule and Shipley are the players everyone wants to know about. Garrett Gilbert is the incumbent and favorite to win the quarterback competition, but he’s got three guys breathing down his neck, including Wood, who’s been rumored to have plans to transfer, and Ash, who has impressed coaches this offseason.

Texas has two great freshmen running backs waiting for their shot. Malcolm Brown, the Big 12 preseason Newcomer of the Year and Rivals.com’s No. 1 running back coming out of high school last year, has generated tons of excitement. Joe Bergeron was not as highly touted as Brown but showed flashes of brilliance, including a 118-yard, two-touchdown performance in a USA vs. World game Feb. 2. He’s had a great offseason as well.

“[Brown and Bergeron] are more alike than they are different,” said Major Applewhite, co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach. “The pass protection is the stuff that gets them. But both of those guys have come in with a keen understanding of what they want to do in terms of studying. They’ve done well.”

Dominic Espinosa, a redshirt freshman from Cedar Park, is the one freshman on offense who’s sure to start. Senior David Snow, who started all 12 games at center in 2010, will move over to guard, where he played as a sophomore and in high school. Espinosa has a strong showing this offseason.

“He’s brought control and confidence,” said junior defensive end Alex Okafor. “He’s surprised everybody. When he got his chance, he just snagged his opportunity and took it.”

On defense, the Longhorns’ front seven won’t need much help from freshmen but defensive tackle Desmond Jackson should get a decent share of playing time. The secondary, on the other hand, is likely the team’s youngest unit, especially at cornerback. Texas’ top three defensive backs include two sophomores and a freshman, Quandre Diggs, another top performer this offseason.

“We call him Quandre the Giant,” said junior safety Kenny Vaccaro. “He is playing big for us. He is technically sound since his brother is Quentin Jammer.”

Youth and inexperience may not be ingredients found in a recipe that remedies 5-7 seasons. This many freshmen contributing would be concerning for most football teams but with the freshmen that Texas has — Shipley, Espinosa, Brown, Bergeron, Diggs — it should be exciting, not worrisome that these guys will see the field. 

Receiver Jaxon Shipley makes a run after catching a ball in practice. Shipley is one of the many first-years competing for a starting role.

Photo Credit: UT Athletics | Daily Texan Staff

It has been a while since McCoy and Shipley hooked up for a touchdown on the 40 Acres. But at last Friday’s scrimmage, it happened again.

Case McCoy, Colt’s younger brother, found Jaxon Shipley, Jordan’s younger brother, in the back of the end zone during the Longhorns’ second scrimmage of fall camp a week ago. McCoy is in the middle of Texas’ most high-profile position battle, which features two freshmen — Connor Wood and David Ash. Every team has their fair share of underclassmen but Texas has freshmen, including Shipley, competing for playing time at virtually every position.

“[Shipley]’s quick,” said sophomore defensive back Adrian Phillips. “When they have him in, he’s hard to guard. He gives us the snake eyes when he looks at you so you’ve got to make sure your technique is really good.”

Shipley is one of a few freshman receivers, along with Miles Onyegbule and John Harris who could play this season, with Shipley possibly snagging a starting spot. Whoever wins the quarterback job, however, could use a big target to throw at like Onyegbule, who is listed at 6-foot-4.

“Miles is a big receiver,” Phillips said. “He’s physical. He’s not afraid to block at all. When the ball touches his hands, most of the time it’s going
to stick.”

The ones who throw to receivers like Onyegbule and Shipley are the players everyone wants to know about. Garrett Gilbert is the incumbent and favorite to win the quarterback competition, but he’s got three guys breathing down his neck, including Wood, who’s been rumored to have plans to transfer, and Ash, who has impressed coaches this offseason.

Texas has two great freshmen running backs waiting for their shot. Malcolm Brown, the Big 12 preseason Newcomer of the Year and Rivals.com’s No. 1 running back coming out of high school last year, has generated tons of excitement. Joe Bergeron was not as highly touted as Brown but showed flashes of brilliance, including a 118-yard, two-touchdown performance in a USA vs. World game Feb. 2. He’s had a great offseason as well.

“[Brown and Bergeron] are more alike than they are different,” said Major Applewhite, co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach. “The pass protection is the stuff that gets them. But both of those guys have come in with a keen understanding of what they want to do in terms of studying. They’ve done well.”

Dominic Espinosa, a redshirt freshman from Cedar Park, is the one freshman on offense who’s sure to start. Senior David Snow, who started all 12 games at center in 2010, will move over to guard, where he played as a sophomore and in high school. Espinosa has a strong showing this offseason.

“He’s brought control and confidence,” said junior defensive end Alex Okafor. “He’s surprised everybody. When he got his chance, he just snagged his opportunity and took it.”

On defense, the Longhorns’ front seven won’t need much help from freshmen but defensive tackle Desmond Jackson should get a decent share of playing time. The secondary, on the other hand, is likely the team’s youngest unit, especially at cornerback. Texas’ top three defensive backs include two sophomores and a freshman, Quandre Diggs, another top performer this offseason.

“We call him Quandre the Giant,” said junior safety Kenny Vaccaro. “He is playing big for us. He is technically sound since his brother is Quentin Jammer.”

Youth and inexperience may not be ingredients found in a recipe that remedies 5-7 seasons. This many freshmen contributing would be concerning for most football teams but with the freshmen that Texas has — Shipley, Espinosa, Brown, Bergeron, Diggs — it should be exciting, not worrisome that these guys will see the field. 

Junior quarterback Garrett Gilbert aims down field against Rice in last year's season opener. Gilbert started all 12 games last year in Texas' first losing season since 1997. Texas coach Mack Brown has repeatedly said the starting quarterback role is still open.

Photo Credit: Derek Stout | Daily Texan Staff

The same school that produced recent college greats such as Colt McCoy and Vince Young is currently without a quarterback to continue the tradition.

Texas coach Mack Brown made it very clear at the Big 12 Media Days that the starting job is still up for grabs between four options that have yet to separate themselves from one another — Garrett Gilbert, Case McCoy, Connor Wood and David Ash.

“Everybody always says when you’ve got four [quarterbacks] you’ve got none, but I think if you’ve got four good ones, you’ve got four good ones,” Brown said. “The field is still wide open, and we want our starter to earn his role.”

He said that the heated competition for one of college football’s most coveted roles may not be decided until the Longhorns’ matchup against Rice on Sept. 3.

“If [the quarterbacks] don’t separate, then we’ll go into the Rice game trying to figure out how we’re going to play them to see who is going to separate in front of 101,000 people,” Brown said. “Y’all would love that.”

Brown’s hush-hush approach to solving this issue raises flags that this year’s batch of competitors may not present the capabilities of a leader. Senior running back Foswhitt Whittaker said that whichever player can rally the team around him will get the job.

“One of the quarterbacks needs to step up in times of adversity,” Whittaker said. “He doesn’t necessarily have to be vocal, but he needs to be able to make plays — a presence in the huddle.” 

Brown echoed those statements, saying that he wanted “somebody that could get Texas’ swagger back.”

Junior Gilbert was last year’s starter and was expected to have a break out year after a gutsy performance in the 2010 National Championship game. Gilbert started the 2010 campaign 4-2 but faltered later in the season when the team went 1-5. He completed 59 percent of his throws for 2,744 yards with just 10 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. The turnovers were among Brown’s biggest concerns, and he said that whoever is under center this year will need to reverse that trend.

Gilbert is widely speculated to retain his role given his pro-potential arm and the inexperience of the other three options, but Ash, Wood and McCoy have all made names for themselves in one way or another.

McCoy played exceptionally well in the spring football game completing 9-of-11 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown, but some scouts noted his footwork needed improvement. Whittaker believes Ash is “the fastest of the four options,” and Wood has a great deal of arm strength.

But despite the individual strengths of each, the race will be settled by who can understand the new offensive schemes the best and most importantly, handle the pressure of being Texas’ leader.

“One of the things [the offensive coordinators] and I have talked about a lot is that we are going to have a lot more live competition this year on 3rd down and in the red zone and on 4th downs,” Brown said. “We want to put quarterbacks under tremendous pressure and make them prove that they can keep the ball moving and make the tough plays.”

If the coaches can’t find the man to handle the pressure of Texas’ judgmental eyes soon enough, Brown already has a backup career planned.

“I’ll probably be a truck driver then.”

Printed on Thursday, July 28, 2011 as: WANTED: Texas quarterback, Head coach still searching for a starting signal caller who can handle pressure

Connor Brewer, the first commitment of the 2012 recruiting class, has thrown for 4,573 yards and 57 touchdowns in two seasons at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Connor Brewer | Daily Texan Staff

Quarterbacks like Connor Brewer don’t just grow on trees.

Not too many put up the high school numbers that the Scottsdale, Arizona native has — 2,677 yards last season with 37 touchdowns. Few are as accurate as he is — Brewer completed 67 percent of his passes in his junior season. And only a few quarterbacks are ranked higher than him — he’s either third best in the nation according to ESPN, or fourth best, according to Rivals.

For all of these reasons, Texas fans should be thrilled that Brewer is one of 18 to give a verbal to the Longhorns for their top-ranked 2012 recruiting class.

But here’s what should make them even more excited: for as hard as he works on the field, Brewer is doing even more on the recruiting trail.

“We have to get the best players to be a great program, and that’s what we have been doing,” he said. “As a quarterback you need to do anything to make your team around you good.”

So Brewer has spent his summer in contact with some of the nation’s best recruits, letting them know just how good life is as a Longhorn.

“I feel it’s my job to get guys here,” he said. “I’m recruiting them hard.”

Brewer got the ball rolling on this year’s class when he gave Texas a verbal commitment February 7, the first to do so. Since then, national standouts such as Johnathan Gray, Cayleb Jones, Kennedy Estelle and Malcom Brown (Brenham’s defensive tackle that shares the same name as the incoming running back) have joined the fray.

“Connor and I understand the importance of playing with great players,” said Jones, Austin High School’s standout receiver who is helping Brewer lure top talent to Austin.

Andrus Peat and Nelson Agholor, both five-star recruits, have been on Texas’ radar for quite some time, so it’s only natural that Brewer has chipped in to help. Peat is scheduled to visit Austin in a couple of weeks to check out the campus and facilities, and Brewer is trying to join him, on his own dime no less.

“I’m not quite sure if I am yet. I have some conflicting high school stuff, but I know Andrus will love Texas when he sees it,” he said. “I can’t wait to see him up there.”

Peat, a big offensive tackle from Tempe, took to Twitter Tuesday night, calling Brewer “the best recruiter in the world.”
It is understandable that a quarterback would want good linemen to protect him and good offensive weapons around him, but this goes beyond that. It seems that Brewer is more intent on changing the culture of the Texas program — younger, better and more enthusiastic. At Nike’s The Opening, a summer showcase of the nation’s top recruits, he was the ringleader of the future Longhorns that made their own shirts — grey tees with “TexasGang or Die” spreading across the chest, with an orange Nike swish underneath.

“Oregon was awesome. All of us bonding was great, it was like we were already a team,” Brewer said. “Those shirts are just a fun thing that brings us together.”

So how did the Longhorns land this renaissance leader, their first out-of-state quarterback since Chris Simms?

Easy: good luck and good timing. Brewer’s older sister Ashley is a sophomore-to-be on the women’s swim team, which could be the biggest indirect assist to Mack Brown since Ryan Perriloux chose not to sign, opening the door for some guy named Colt McCoy.

“Ashley told me she loved Texas and that it was the best place in the world,” Brewer said. “But she let me make my own decision.”

That aspect was a bit easier once Boise State’s offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin made the parallel move to Texas.

“I was in contact with coach Harsin a little bit after my sophomore season. It definitely opened my eyes to Texas when he went there, because he is such a great coach,” Brewer said. “Our relationship built up a lot.”

With what appears to be a logjam at his future position — what with Garrett Gilbert, Case McCoy, Connor Wood and David Ash — one would think that Brewer might have been a bit turned off by the crowded two-deep.

“Not at all,” he said. “There is going to be competition everywhere I go. I’m going to work my hardest to achieve the starting job.

Printed on 07/14/2011 as: Brew's Crew, 2012 quarterback Connor Brewer is selling recruits on Texas

After a 5-7 season, Mack Brown really has no other choice than to shake things up.

After finishing up his offseason staff shuffle, Mack has said that all position battles are “wide open;” last year’s starters will have to prove themselves to an entirely new group of coaches if they want their old jobs back.

But should we really believe that the quarterback competition is truly up for grabs? No.

Obviously, this discussion would not be necessary if last season wasn’t such a debacle. But it was and, like it or not, you can’t finish No. 74 in the nation in total offense and not put most of the blame on the quarterback.

Garrett Gilbert struggled in his first year as the starter, throwing just 10 touchdowns to 17 interceptions. Poor ball control was an issue and, at times, it looked like

Gilbert was in over his head out there. Granted, he wasn’t blessed with a healthy group of talented skill players or linemen like Texas has had in the past, but a lot of people expected much more from the former high school Gatorade National Football Player of the Year.

And so now we’re here. It’s April, and your Longhorns still don’t have a quarterback. Brown says he and new offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin will find their favorite out of four contestants, who all stand on supposedly equal ground: the incumbent Gilbert, Case McCoy, Connor Wood and David Ash.

But this quarterback race still looks like it is Gilbert’s to lose, despite what the coaches say and regardless of his past troubles. Gilbert was placed in a position to be successful in the spring game: All of his possessions were with the first-team offense against the defense’s second unit, and he even had the wind at his back.

He didn’t fare very well. Gilbert went 8-15 for 76 yards, including an interception so poorly thrown — way short of the intended receiver — that those in attendance must have thought it was 2010 all over again.

McCoy had better numbers, 9-11 for 124 yards and a touchdown. But what was impressive on paper wasn’t as pretty on film, as McCoy showed some mechanical flaws, throwing off his back foot on more than half of his passing attempts. Final results are always most important and McCoy found a way to move the ball down the field, leading the second-unit offense — made up of a few walk-ons — to a touchdown against the starting defense.

The real mystery of this quarterback quandary is Wood. After redshirting last year, he still has four years of eligibility left and drew positive reviews during spring practice from those close to the program. Wood went 8-14 and, while he struggled with his accuracy, flashed some mobility and featured what may be the strongest arm of the bunch. However, he didn’t get the opportunities Gilbert and McCoy did (fewer snaps, fewer passing plays, most of the time against the first-team defense), which is confusing given Wood’s athleticism and potential and what we heard out of spring practice.
Ash, the early enrollee from Belton, throws the best spiral, is accurate and tore up the competition in high school with 48 total touchdowns and 3,400 passing yards, but don’t count on him to be considered a realistic candidate for the job, given his inexperience.

Brown continues to repeat that the starting job is fair and wide open, but that’s hard to completely believe after the spring game, where it looked like Gilbert was given far and away the best chance to succeed and still came up short. If Brown really wants to put his worst season at Texas behind him, he might be better off seriously considering handing Wood or McCoy the reins. This isn’t a knock on Gilbert, who has the physical tools to be the guy, just a fight for true equality at a position that should require nothing less.

What’s the worst that can happen? 5-7?